Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Are You Blessed This Thanksgiving?

Hi Friends,

As we think about Thanksgiving this week (at least for those in the US!), I'm thinking about what it really means to be blessed.  Here is something from WRESTLING WITH WONDER to ponder as we consider gratefulness and blessedness, especially when we're not feeling so thankful, not feeling so blessed:


So who is this God who takes what we think we know and redefines it? Who is he who calls the poor rich, the hungry filled, the mighty fallen, the humble lifted high? Who is he who calls us blessed not when life has finally reached perfection but rather when we are struggling along on the journey?
            This is the God of reversals.
            This is the God of upside-down blessings.
            This is the God who says:
                        —Blessed are you who are poor ...
                        —Blessed are you who hunger ...
                        —Blessed are you who weep ...
                        —Blessed are you when people hate you ...
                        —Blessed are you when they exclude and insult you ...
                        —Blessed are you when you’re rejected...
This is the new blessedness ... the reversal of all the world teaches, all our culture says is the way things are supposed to be.
            We think blessing is the arrival at the place where our troubles are gone and we are financially secure, well-fed, happy, liked, included, and spoken well of. Blessing is being accepted on the mountaintop.
            But Mary shows us that through Jesus God has changed everything. He has made the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, rejected people blessed. And he’s done it by becoming poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected.
            Our world is turned upside down.
            And it is on the journey through the shadows that he calls us to sing.  It is there that he becomes more than the One who provides, but the Bread itself; more than the One who frees, but Freedom itself. More than a way out of darkness, but the Light.
            Because blessedness isn’t a feeling, nor a synonym for happiness. It isn’t having our lives conform to what we’d like them to be. Instead, blessedness is being chosen for a journey through deep valleys and scratchy underbrush. It’s traveling with the One who changes everything, and walks beside us in the dark. It’s singing, knowing the reversals are coming, knowing our world is being turned upside down. It’s supposed to be that way. We’re on a journey to the mountaintop.
            The only question is ...
            Will we sing along the way?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When the Journey is Long ...

Hi Friends,

As I look forward to a long surgery next Tuesday, followed by a longer and difficult recovery, I'm reminded that God is a God of the journey and in the journey.  So, for those who are facing their own difficult journey in life right now, here is a bit of hope from WRESTLING WITH WONDER:


If God loves us, if he’s called us, shouldn’t he smooth our path? Shouldn’t he make it easy to follow his will?
            Apparently not, because our God is the God of the journey. He is not the God of the easy way. He has no easy button.
            So why do we think things like “If only I learned faster,” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why is God punishing me?” or “I must be doing something wrong” when the journey is long and difficult, when we don’t arrive the moment we set out?
            We forget that he knows what he’s doing. He has planned our travels, foreseen our journey. And there is a purpose in it. He travels with us. Within us.

            Consider the journeys of the major players in biblical history:
            —Abraham travels to the promised land.
            —The Israelites travel across the desert, and wander in it, after the exodus from                     Egypt.
            —Ruth travels to Israel and becomes the great-grandmother of King David.
            —Daniel travels to Babylon.
            —Mary travels to Bethlehem.
            —Jesus travels from his throne in heaven to the dark, jostling womb of a woman.

            Because God is the God of the journey and in the journey.
So we walk, we stumble, we run ... and we remember: The journey matters. God is in it. He has planned it from long ago that we might come to the place we need to be.
            The journey isn’t easy, but we are not alone.
            God is whispering in our ear: If there was another way to get you to where you need to be, I would have taken it. This is the only path. This dusty, rocky road is my will for you. Walk in it. Trust me, and travel to your Bethlehem. I am the God of the journey. I am the God in the journey. Walk with me …

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Love That Broke Me - Love That Restored Me

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking about the love of God lately.  I've been pondering its fierceness, determination, passion.  I've been thinking about how it changed me.  So I thought, today, I would share my own story of the moment when God overwhelmed me with His love, when He captured my heart and called me deeper - called me to surrender to a Love like no other.  The moment when my life changed forever.  

This is from the first chapter of Wrestling with Wonder (which, by the way, has new DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR GROUPS (click for link) on my website -- please suggest the book for any group studies you're involved in!)

Here is my story . . .

I remember the day that God first broke into my life, interrupting my ordinary with a glimpse of wonder beyond my wildest dreams. For me, it happened in a dorm room at Stanford University. I lay on my rumpled bed with chemistry books scattered among great works of Western culture. A thin tome by Bernard of Clairvaux, a fat text with selected works from Martin Luther, a black paperback of the Confessions of Augustine. Chemistry and Confessions and Clairvaux ... and midterms the next day. I stared out the window and followed the dance of dead leaves over the brick walkway outside. I heard the rustle of them through the slightly opened pane. And then it came. An inaudible whisper. A flutter in my soul.
            I love you.
            And then came the tiniest glimpse in my heart of a love like I’d never seen, never experienced before. Sweet and piercing. Like the quiet whisper of a relentless wind. Like the powerful pull of the ocean’s tide. Like deep, rumbling laughter. Like thunder across the sky.
            God loved me.            
            With a love that broke me. Restored me.
            Called me to more.
            To surrender.
            So there, among books and papers and pencils chewed to a nub, I accepted the call of love. I gave my life to the One who loved me with that kind of love.
            I am yours, God. May it be to me as you want ...
            I didn’t speak those words exactly, but it was what I meant, an echo of a girl who had encountered God millennia before me.
            And like her, I knew some of what it meant to say those words. For me, it meant a new major (in chemistry, of all things!), digging deep into the Bible with friends, choosing worship over achievement. But, in truth, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. I didn’t see years of infertility, miscarriage, disappointments, and doubts. I didn’t see failures in ministries, family and friends who didn’t understand, confusion and darkness.
            All I knew was that he loved me, and I was his. And that changed everything. I’d been called. Called out of my ordinary life, with my ordinary plans. Called to something more.
More wondrous? Yes. But also more painful, more confusing, more wild and unexpected than I could have ever imagined.

            Because that’s what it means to follow him. It means your plans are no longer your own. Your life itself belongs to him.